As you might expect, winter sports are a big deal in Alaska. Indoors, basketball and hockey are important—check out a high school basketball tournament or an Aces hockey game if you want to see rabid fans. But we have outdoor winter sports that are followed closely, too. I chose two to talk about today.
Skiing is something all Alaskans have to try, and many spend much of their winter recreation time either alpine or cross-country (Nordic) skiing. Other Alaskans compete internationally. Alaskan skiers Bill Spencer, Tommy Roe, Kikkan Randall, and others have been in the Olympics. This year, we’re excited to have Alaskans like Holly Brooks, and two sets of siblings Erik and Sadie Bjornsen and Caitlin and Scott Patterson competing in the national or international Nordic circuit. And I didn’t even get to biathlon, a variation that has its own fandom up here.
Dog mushing is our state sport, naturally, because of its history here. But it is alive and well in modern times. Many mushing greats like Jeff King and the Mackey and Seavey families are still in the game. (Hmmm. Why are there so many siblings and families in Alaskan sports?) This year’s season has started with little snow in the Southcentral part of the state, and there’s talk of moving or rerouting some races to create better conditions. But that hasn’t fazed the competitors—25 mushers have signed up for the Yukon Quest race and 86 have paid to enter the Iditarod. Dog mushing is tops in Alaska.
Should be a fun winter, whatever sport you pick. Get out there and challenge yourself, or watch the athletes and be inspired!
Photo: Jeff King and dog embrace by James Brooks from Kodiak, Alaska–Wikimedia Commons